The Hilton Austin is owned by the City of Austin. Or, technically, by a separate entity created by the city. The city appoints the company’s board, and can amend its bylaws.
But because it is a ‘private’ entity owned by the city – a ‘public facility corporation – it is able to apply for a federal Paycheck Protection Loan to cover payroll costs it is going to be incurring anyway. Cities themselves cannot apply for these forgivable loans.
When applying for the PPP loan was discussed at the City Council meeting, other dirty laundry about the Austin Hilton got aired.
The Board, appointed by the city, hired the entity’s only employee – a City Council member who lost the last election, Jimmy Flannigan. He is paid $140,000 per year for a ’20 hour a week job’ though it’s unclear what work he actually does. Flannigan describes it as “high level strategy” and “scheduling board meetings.”
According to the city they’re paying their ex-councilmember because they had no other choice, because “no one would take the job months leading up to Flannigan’s runoff loss and subsequent hire.” Ahem.
Oh – and the board of the company appointed by the city council extended the employment offer while Flannigan was still a member of the council itself.
It’s not even clear the arrangement is legal because under Austin City Code § 2-7-67 as a former city official he can’t represent his employer before the city for 12 months over any matter in which he exercised authority. However the council claims the city code applies to officials other than council members themselves. According to former councilmember Flannigan, “Optics are what you make of them.”